Pipe Dreams

smoking pipeThe title above once meant leaning back with a lighted tobacco pipe clenched in one’s jaw and just contemplating fantasy or future plans. Drug culture changed that a bit. More fantasy. I don’t do either but I do contemplate many serious things. My pipe dreams are virtual.

My friend, Jim (KW5CW) talked with me a few days ago in my former ham shack. Former because I suffered a total wipe out of all electronics located within the shack due to a lightning strike. A story on that can be found elsewhere is this blog.

Jim said he thinks I have pretty well written off ham radio as one of my hobbies. That is sad but true. Not totally written off from who I am and where my heart feels happy. I will always have the HAM spirit.

I find too many other activities being creative and making things. I make equipment boxes and antenna insulators for Jim using 3D printing.

Just operating amateur radio has never been a strong driving force. I operated my station because I enjoy using the equipment. Not because  of the typical excitement of seeing how far I could be heard (DX chasing).

Field Day was about getting the equipment to function. Not the “score” about making the contacts. I once set up a battery QRP station in a park at a picnic table and strung a low dipole between two trees. I made contacts but not many. I operated for only a few hours. It was all about making it work.

With my big expensive station equipment now a fused and burned box of junk, I have no urge to spend the money on high quality high cost radios. I have a Heathkit HW-9 (QRP) I can get back on the air. Just need to add an antenna and perhaps a matching network.

I don’t want an antenna feed even disconnected entering my home office where my old radio shack existed. I lost far too much non-ham equipment because of the strike. I have become gun-shy about lightning.

I have a mental image of exactly how to manage all feed lines in any future ham shack. Total isolation unless I am operating. There is a  big difference between static charge protection and a direct strike. I have seen disconnected antenna coax arcing 3/8” at the PL259 from static charge buildup in a snow storm. No lighting strike. A strike ignores all open switches to get to ground. lightning can leap thousands of feet through empty air. Once finding an antenna and feed line, all protection bets are off.

My house has been direct hit twice. Silvered mirrors have vaporized on bathroom walls. Only the last strike found the radio and office equipment. Twice bit is two, too many. I know why a ham shack should be a literal shed out in the yard somewhere. Totally isolated and dedicated to radio and lighting protection.

If I lived away from HOA Stasi patrols,  I would certainly give that serious consideration. I would have two areas within such a shack. A well grounded operating position with disconnect-able antenna feeds, and on the other side, an electronics workbench for project building.

Yup, a literal ham shack.

I could exist within a home structure but the location would have to be totally isolated. All my stations fit that description until Texas. Only here did I combine daily office / computer activities with my amateur radio. Big mistake. A ham shack connected to antennas must be single use and totally isolated. 

A remote operating position can be mixed in with office systems but I would recommend any LAN connection to the station equipment utilize a fiber optic LAN or WiFi. All hard wired connected equipment around the house including telephones were destroyed in my second strike.

A fiber LAN link is an off the shelf purchase today. My exterior ham shack would definitely have a fiber LAN connection. Fiber is faster and more reliable than WiFi. If I was trenching a power feed to the shack there would be a red pipe in there for the fiber.

My real life is a bit different than my fantasy Ham Shack. Real world existence requires compromise. Doing everything and only what I want, is not reality. I do get close but I am not a tyrant dictator. I want to please others and especially my spouse of over 54 years of sharing and compromise. I get most of what I dream and the rest is not really necessary for the good life. Building a ham shack in the back yard won’t happen here. Neither will a she-shack. Did I mention the HOA Stasi?

Ham radio operating (now 53 years) hasn’t always been “operating” but it has always been a part of my personal identity. It will continue.

When it does, I will certainly have more to say…